Excitement shoots up just with the thought of, and so did it happen in the case of my hostess at Koh Samui, whose eyes widened with excitement when I told her about my plan of visiting that place. It was her hometown, and she was super excited that I would be visiting Lopburi.
It has quite a rich legacy attached to it.
Lopburi was gifted to Lord Hanuman by Lord Rama for his devotion and as a token of appreciation after the war in Lanka. So to date, the descendants of the Monkey God rule the city. Being a strong devotee of Lord Hanuman, it was quite diabolical of me to be scared of monkeys.
This fear comes out of nowhere and has a reason behind it.
I have had an episode of them climbing over me and dangling from my dupatta that now I maintain distance from monkeys. The moment I see one, I avoid eye contact, my camera gets neatly tucked into my bag, all my belongings get into my backpack neatly zipped and clutched dearly by me, and I start to chant Jai Hanuman, hoping that it will not attack me.
So the news that I was going to visit the monkey city did not go very well in my head.
The moment the train pulled into the Lopburi station, I could see monkeys running near the train like porters willing to carry your luggage, but these were trying to grab things from people and make a quick run.
My friend and I dropped our backpacks in the luggage room of the railway station and decided to walk around the town.
Exploring the ruins will take only half a day. It is a small town with two prominent temples and a palace. As the train pulled in, it was not just the monkeys that welcomed us, and there was already a ruin right in front of the station.
Lopburi’s history goes back to Khmer Period.
It would be much older if it were gifted to Lord Hanuman !!
Read: About the Khmer Empire
History of Lopburi
Let us discover the history of the majestic city.
Lopburi was initially known as Lavapura or Lavo. It dated back to the Dvaravati period from the 6th to 10th century and was known for its prosperity.
Dvaravati period is when the Hinduism brought from Indian influence was at its peak. This place was flourishing with Hinduism and then was slowly converted to Buddhism. So even the museums will have sculptures and artifacts pertaining more to Hindu Gods. And then the Khmer influenced it.
Some of the temple structures are very evidently designed in Khmer architecture.
The main temple Prang Sam Yot which stands in the middle of the city, is an example of the Khmer period. This period is also called the Lopburi period, with Thai art and culture prospering.
Somewhere in the later point of time, when the Ayutthaya period begins and Lopburi gets detached from Cambodia, it loses its importance.
The famous king of the Ayutthaya period, King Narai, finds Lopburi, makes it his second capital and asks the French and Italian engineers to build a palace with fort walls. This is still a prime attraction at Lopburi.
By the time the Rattanakosin era got established, which you can see as the current Bangkok, Lavo got abandoned.
Things to do in Lopburi
The good thing about Lopburi is that most places have a clear board about what the temple is about. So, it is good to see.
There are two main temples which you will have to see,
San Phra Karn and
Prang Sam Yod.
This is where all the Lopburi monkeys can be seen. They hang around here big time. There are many small temples right among the bustling streets that, if you have time, please do go everywhere. I am jotting down the list of temples I visited. I followed somebody’s blog, which I don’t remember now, that had mentioned this order. It was very convenient to mark on the map and walk-in orders.
There are not many pictures of monkeys in this post because I carefully tucked my camera away many times.
Wat Phrasri Rattana Mahatat
Wat Phrasri Rattana Mahatat is the first thing to notice as soon as one gets down at the railway station. It has a history even before the Ayutthaya kingdom, somewhere between the 18th -19th century. Sadly, the temple has now been abandoned, and the large Prang is seen in the middle. The tallest Prang in Lopburi is of this temple.
It was renovated during the Ayutthaya period, and King Narai added a Prayer hall and some more chedis around. At some places, you can still see the stuccos restored and intact on the chedis. But it was mostly ruined. With further periods there were additions and demolition to this temple. It does very much remind you of the Temples of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai as it influences both styles.
Wat Nakhon Kosa
This is also close to the railway station, and at first sight, you might think not to visit. This is because just a prayer hall and almost collapsing Chedi are the only remains. This was a Hindu temple, a place of worship for the Khmer kings. Later it was converted into a Buddhist temple. Excavations from this temple can be found as exhibits in the Phra Narai museum.
San Phra Karn
Lopburi monkey temple number one.
So let’s approach the genesis.
Lord Ram, who is the avatar of Lord Vishnu, gives this city to Lord Hanuman and all the monkeys. So it is a Vishnu temple.
But during the Ayutthaya period, the head has been replaced with that of a Buddha. So it is a body of Vishnu with four arms and leaders of that of Buddha. There is a statue of Garuda in the front.
But it is now a Buddhist temple, and it is prayed so also in Buddhist style. A lintel with Vishnu’s image taken from here can be found at the Phra Narai museum. An inscription dating from the Pallava period can be found here.
There is so much more interesting about this temple. But the monkeys are constantly leaving their hands through the grills to pull the flowers and whatever you are holding. And the place is flocked with tourists and natives of the town that it is way too crowded. Though they are a nuisance, the monkeys are also considered to bring prosperity and are given utmost respect.
They have made a spot for them with a water tank to cool themselves and play area types that they enjoy to the max. People buy bananas and feed them to the monkeys. However, it was mentioned that the monkeys are provided by the temple officials at a designated time and not to feed them. I don’t think that matters.
Monkeys are not there to eat, and they can take away your camera, water bottle, umbrella, whatever that you fail to notice.
If you are not careful with your bag, they know to sneak behind you, open the zip, and fish out things from the bag. Trust me, and I am not making it up.
Prang Sam Yod
This is the Lopburi monkey temple number 2. This is not a functioning temple, but this had equally competitive monkeys fighting and targeting tourists. From the outside, it was three prangs, and I did not want to enter, considering the monkeys despite holding a ticket.
The security guard could read my mind, and he gave me a long stick. “Just tap tap and go”, he said with a grin, and now with a weapon in hand, I felt much more protected.
Mind you, and this is actually like in the middle of the road and yet so many monkeys.
Prang Sam Yod has three main Prangs that remind you of Bayon architecture. All the three Prangs are connected. A security guard stands at the door and lets in people into the Prang while ten other monkeys would also be waiting to enter along with you. The inside was stinking of bat smell and dirt.. There was a Buddha statue. I came out faster than I thought I would spend time here. This is also a Hindu temple converted to a Buddhist one.
It is said that the three prangs would have had the “Trimurti,” which is Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma – the three Hindu Gods.
I had to return the stick to the security guard, unfortunately. As I walked around the town, I could see hoards of monkeys hanging around the houses. Probably something good must be cooking in there, and they were there for a taste. All the houses have good mesh-type grills to prevent the monkeys from entering.
Devasthan Prang Khaek
The next walkable temple from the Prang Sam Yod is the Devastan Prang Khaek.
This one sits in an island-like mound with cars plying on all sides and a market area on another side. This place is something everybody will miss as it does not look that great, almost ruined, and you will never think that in the middle of the road is the most significant temple.
Devasthan Prang Khaek is the oldest Khmer-era ruin in Thailand. Unlike other temples, this is not called a Wat (Buddhist temple), but it is still called Devasthan (Hindu version of calling a temple). There are three towering Prangs with the entrance facing like that of Hindu temples.
The placard says it was a sacred place of worship for Brahmanism. I assume it to be another Vishnu temple.
Just the lane opposite Devasthan Prang Khaek has the Wichayen house, which means the official residence of the ambassadors. So, this place is not far from the king’s palace. It is a house where the ambassadors from other countries visiting King Narai would stay here. The close aide of King Narai was also called Wichayen, and I am not sure if it was his house. I think this building had a separate ticket charge. I decided to click a pic from outside and move on.
We walked further down into the town. You can see newer Wats and Chinese temples here and there. I decided to stick to history and skipped those. Lopburi has the Lopburi river running through it, which will later join the Chao Phraya river. So fishing is quite a thing at Lopburi.
Have you seen the Chinese fishing nets that they lower into the river and pull up?
Such kinds of fishing nets are used here, and while walking down the street, we can see people knitting their nets or some repairing their nets.
Chedi Luang Por Wat Monkhan
This is a leaning Chedi. Opposite this, Chedi is a brand new temple too. More than the Chedi itself, the walk to it was better as it takes you through the alleys of the town. I was expecting to be like the leaning Pisa Tower, but it was not that leaning. The top portion alone feels a bit leaned.
The only last thing left now was to visit King Narai’s palace, which is now a museum.
The only last thing left now was to visit King Narai’s palace which is now a museum.
Somdet Phra Narai National Museum
Museums are of great interest to me, and I loved this one without any doubt. We spent nearly two hours here.
This is the palace built by King Narai during the Ayutthaya period. He kept this as his second capital and would often spend time here.
King Narai is one of the progressive kings who allied with France and other countries. One of the curious and controversial kings wanted to learn languages, exchange goods with other countries, and bring foreigners into his court as advisers. Some liked it, and some did not. When King Narai passed away, the capital was shifted to Ayutthaya, foreign ties were cut off, and the palace was abandoned.
Later on, in the Rattanakosin period, King Rama IV restored the palace. He further added rooms and court places. It was then converted into a museum.
At the gate, once you get the ticket, an information booklet and map will be given, which you can follow. It shows you around the palace, which has an elephant’s stable, storage houses, water tanks, the reception hall, throne hall, hall to meet the public, etc. The museum is filled with info.
You can learn a lot about the Ayutthaya period, King Narai. Many artifacts excavated from in and around the Khmer empire, culture and tradition followed currency system, weaponry, and much more. You will also get to read stories about the politics of that time, who the courtesans were and what ploy was used against each, and so on.
Having done that, we caught a minivan to Ayutthaya.
So you can do it like a day trip from Ayutthaya too.
Also, Read the Ayutthaya Kingdom and Top 10 temples to visit.
Having done with that we caught on a minivan to Ayutthaya. So you can actually do it like a day trip from Ayutthaya too.
Lopburi Monkey festival
Well, the ‘city of monkeys’ ought to have a day to celebrate them !!
One of the most famous festivals that Lopburi is known for is the Monkey festival. It is also called the Monkey banquet, monkey buffet festival, and much more. The idea is to spread out a huge buffet of food for the monkeys to feast on. It is a much-talked-about festival in Thailand. It happens on the last Sunday of November.
I am not quite sure if it is based on the lunar calendar or just for convenience. So, the hostess that I met in Koh Samui told me that there would be tables and tables of food, tall statues made of food, and the monkeys would dash at them. Food for them would include fruits and vegetables.
If you are looking to meet a lot of monkeys, then this is your chance. I witnessed this when I was in Thailand. Even though I realized that as an Asian, Indian monkeys are not something new to me, but there were plenty of tourists who saw monkeys as exotic animals that they don’t get to interact with.
How to Reach Lopburi
I came into Lopburi from Phimai. However, what you can do is take a day trip from Ayutthaya. It is about just an hour from here. You can hop on a train or a minivan and get dropped near the railway station, go around the town and get back.
This can also be done as a day trip from Bangkok, but it will be a little more travel time than Ayutthaya. Within Lopburi, you can take a vehicle or walk around, and it is a small town.
Where to Stay In Lopburi?
Stay close to the railway station. From there, almost everything is walkable, and you can do one full walk around the town by noon.
For interesting stay options – Click Here